Community Action Duluth created the Duluth Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative as a Call to Action to generate community involvement and support to build economic prosperity and hope for every citizen of Duluth.
Community Action Duluth developed the Duluth Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative as a strategy to bring community members together to determine what it will take to end poverty in Duluth and to form a plan to bring economic prosperity and hope to every citizen. The Duluth Prosperity Agenda is a follow-up initiative to the Blueprint to End Poverty. Duluth's Blueprint to End Poverty: A Report to the Community was issued based on the process described below. This effort is helping advance the agency’s mission to mobilize low-income people and the broader community to build assets that prevent poverty, create equality and strengthen the social fabric.
Duluth Prosperity Agenda
As announced in a press release (January 2010), the City of Duluth is partnering with several key community leaders to set Duluth on the path to prosperity by increasing income and assets of all Duluth residents. By harnessing existing talent and resources, the Duluth Prosperity Agenda team will organize resources, build collaborations, and explore long-term community investments with the goal of increasing community prosperity.
The Duluth Prosperity Agenda Team consists of members from the non-profit, education, business, housing, social service, and government sectors. The Prosperity Agenda team concentrated on five specific areas, which intrinsically complement each other and developed an index as a measurement tool to track progress:
- Income and Poverty - 30 points: What percentage of the population has an income less than 200% of the federal standard for poverty? How close is Duluth's median household income to the state's median household income?
- Housing - 20 points: How much of the population is considered "cost-burdened" by spending more than 30% of their household income on housing? What percentage of single-family homes are owner-occupied?
- Workforce - 20 points - What is the average weekly wage that workers in Duluth earn and how close is it to the state's average weekly wage? What is the percentage of adults in Duluth that are in the workforce?
- Education - 10 points. What is the total education level of everyone over 25 in Duluth?
- Business Climate - 20 points. How many jobs are there in Duluth?
The group plans to develop work plans and strategies that impact each specific area of the index. Each group will engage community members and develop objectives and strategies to increase economic growth and widely shared prosperity.
As we invest and be proactive in each of the five areas, we will be able to realize dividends. With a positive shift in the index, we will see positive impacts in each of the five prosperity agenda items. Current and future investments could yield for Duluth:
- Increased business profitability
- Increased equity and income
- Increased educational achievements
- Reduced crime
- Increased tax base
- Strengthened community pride
- Stronger sustainable neighborhoods
- Increased community health and wealth
To make progress towards prosperity, Duluth must patiently make long-term investments in its workforce, businesses, education, and community development.
Duluth Blueprint to End Poverty
A Community Declaration to End Poverty was created and signed by the agency’s Board of Directors as a Call to Action to end poverty in Duluth. Other groups and individuals are encouraged to sign the Declaration. A PowerPoint presentation was created to build support and involvement with the initiative.
A number of other items are used to create awareness about poverty:
Poverty USA (2008 - Catholic Campaign for Human Development)
- Hidden in Plain Sight (CFED Study)
Waging a Living (PBS Documentary)
The Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative incorporated the following components:
Guiding Coalition to act as the steering committee for the overall process; planning, participating, and processing “steering”
Strategy Sessions in the form of three events were conducted between May 7 and June 13, 2007 to engage the larger community in developing solutions to end poverty in Duluth and to act as educational outreach to the broader community around the topic of poverty:
Community Forum on Poverty
Fellows Program to help low-income community members participate in the planning process and also learn more about community organizing and public policy. The fellows attended a series of workshops discussing the topics of race and discrimination, living wage, and telling their story. They also attended Camp Wellstone for an intensive weekend of public policy and community organizing training. Fellows interviewed 115 low-income residents to find out their current struggles and concerns and also give them an opportunity to share their ideas on how poverty could be eliminated – summary of stakeholder interviews.
These efforts led to the development of Targeted Strategies to End Poverty. Action Teams have the task of further defining the suggested strategies and coordination of their successful implementation. A summary of the Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative and results to-date were featured in Community Action Duluth’s Summer 2007 Newsletter.
Community Action Duluth’s programs are where community partnerships are formed and low-income people find the support, resources and relationships they need to help them overcome the economic, racial and cultural barriers that prevent them from establishing and maintaining self-sufficient and connected lives. These include:
- Circles of Support for Duluth Community Action – Circles of Support incorporates a multi-faceted approach to help families move out of isolation and poverty - Circles of Support-Matched Circle Program and Circles of Support-Community Engagement. Each of these processes are designed to bring people together to dispel stereotypes, strengthen our connections across socio-economic and cultural divides and help working poor families move out of poverty - see Circles of Support - 2008 Summary. Circles of Support is offered by a number of CAAs in Minnesota.
[Note: A number of other Community Action Agencies outside Minnesota and other organizations sponsor Circles™ in communities across the U.S. This initiative has been developed to serve as a national model by the Move the Mountain Leadership Center.]
- Family Assets for Independence Minnesota (FAIM) – A matched savings account specially designed to help you save enough money to acquire one of these three assets: a home, a higher education, or a small business.
The Duluth Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative is cited in Rooting out Poverty: A Campaign by America’s Community Action Network. The Duluth process was developed as a parallel effort to a variety of regional and national initiatives such as:
- Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020
- Kalamazoo Promise established by anonymous donors, who had been meeting in private to discuss how to stimulate to the city’s economy and announced in late 2005 that they would offer free college tuition to graduates of the public schools in Kalamazoo, MI.
- Step-Up is Savannah, Georgia’s Poverty Reduction Initiative based on a framework of goals and action step that are an outgrowth of community planning sessions.
The Blueprint to End Poverty Initiative is an action-oriented process to build targeted strategies toward the elimination of poverty. The Blueprint Initiative directly relates to two of the ROMA National Goals through the increased participation of low-income people in advocacy efforts and the creation of partnerships among supporters and providers of services to low-income people:
Goal 3: Low-Income People Own A Stake In Their Own Community
Goal 4: Partnerships Among Supporters And Providers Of Services to Low-Income People Are Achieved
A specific outcome of the Blueprint has been the creation of JumpStart Duluth, which is a car loan/purchase program. This strategy came out of the Transportation Action Team of the Blueprint in response to the need identified during the Blueprint process for options to help resolve transportation barriers faced by low-income people. 18 people purchased a car between February 2009 and January 2010.
Angie Miller, Executive Director